Leonard Braithwaite

Leonard Braithwaite

Leonard Austin Braithwaite (born October 23, 1923) is a lawyer and politician in Ontario, Canada. He served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1963 to 1975, as a member of the Liberal Party. He was the first Black Canadian to be elected to a provincial legislature in Canada.

Braithwaite was born in Toronto, Ontario to West Indian parents, and served overseas with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. He received a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto in 1950. He then received a Masters of Business Administration degree from the Harvard Business School in 1952, and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958. He practiced as a barrister and solicitor, and was named a Queen's Counsel in 1971.

His political career began in 1960, when he was elected to Ward Four the Etobicoke township board of education. Braithwaite was Ratepayer's President for Etobicoke at the time, and was elected because of demand for a high school north of Eglinton. Two years later, he was elected as an alderman on the Etobicoke council.

Braithwaite ran for the Liberals in the 1963 provincial election, and defeated Progressive Conservative candidate Geoffrey Grossmith to win the constituency of Etobicoke by 443 votes. The original declared result showed Grossmith winning by over 500 votes, and Braithwaite was only declared elected after a serious error in the vote totals was discovered. The Returning Officer claimed it was an accident, though Braithwaite later argued that it was an attempt to cheat him from office. [http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/Braitwaite-liberalsPolitics.htm]

He was re-elected in 1967 and 1971, and served as the Liberal Party Critic for Labour and Welfare. Braithwaite also helped to revoke an Ontario law that had allowed for racial segregation in public schools, an act that Braithwaite later described as his greatest accomplishment. He also called for the admission of female legislative pages in 1966.

He was defeated in the 1975 election, losing to New Democratic Party candidate Ed Philip by 1,256 votes. He returned to political life in 1982, when he was elected to the Etobicoke Board of Control. At the time, Etobicoke Controllers automatically served on the Metro Toronto council as well. Braithwaite served in both positions until 1988, when he was defeated.

He attempted a return to the provincial legislature in the 1985 election, but lost to Progressive Conservative incumbent Nick Leluk by 715 votes in York West.

Braithwaite became a bencher of the Governing Council of The Law Society of Upper Canada in 1999. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997, and was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005.


* [http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/Braithwaite_Public.htm The Untold Story of Leonard Braithwaite]

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